Melissa Matthay
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1957 - 2010
MATTHAY-Melissa, known to her friends and family as "Lissy," died on August 23, 2010 in Los Angeles. She was 53. A well-known designer of couture knitwear, she was the original owner of the trend-setting Yarn Co. in uptown Manhattan, an enterprise that helped fuel a nationwide passion for knitting. In 1996, New York Magazine included the store in its "Best of New York" issue, and Vogue Knitting Magazine International later named it an "Inspirational Yarn Shop," whose celebrity clientele included Julia Roberts and Gregory Hines. Family Circle Magazine, which featured a seven-page spread on Lissy in 2006, called her a knitting "diva," and she appeared on HGTV's "Knitty Gritty" in 2005. A self-taught knitter, she became a designer for top international yarn companies, including Missoni, Lane Borgosesia, and Tahki.

Using bright splashes of color and natural fibers, Lissy created playful designs in teal, raspberry, indigo, and other vivid hues, sometimes throwing in exotic materials like pheasant feathers or confetti yarn. She also found a depth and spirituality in her work, as profoundly expressed in a custom-made tallis she created for the Bat Mitvah of her best friend's daughter.

Her fashion line, ByMelissa, includes wedding knitwear, "Kritter Knits," and handcrafted bags made with hand-dyed yarn. Lissy's knitting patterns were published in seven books co-authored with Sheryl Thies, including "The Little Box of Scarves I and II," "The Little Box of Sweaters," "Basically Brilliant Knits," and "Perfectly Brilliant Knits." She also wrote "Knits Three Ways" and "Children's Knits." Lissy's customers and admirers will be knitting her designs for years to come, and those lucky enough to own one of her custom-made pieces will feel her warmth remaining in the sweaters and scarves that she stitched with such love and skill.

Mary Melissa Matthay was born July 1, 1957 in Janesville, Wisconsin, the daughter of a Parker Pen executive whose business took him and his family to France, where she spent her early childhood years. At 17, she moved from Janesville to New York City with hopes of becoming a modern dancer, and studied briefly with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater before starting her career in knitting design. In the late 1990s, she returned to her native Wisconsin, transforming the Knitting Tree in Madison into a local mecca for knitting devotees and novices alike.

Lissy will be remembered for the intense love she brought to everyone in her orbit; her joyful, suffocating hugs; and her unforgettable French-accented, New York-edged Wisconsin-ese "this-this-this" mixture of talking and laughter, punctuated with guffaws and a thunderous clap of her hands.

She leaves behind two sons, Aaron and Dylan Davis; her sisters, Camy Matthay (Paul Hastil) and F.J. (Jeannie) Bergmann (Fred); aunt Marion Tomlinson (Ray); nephew, Ben Hastil; nieces Emma Hastil and Philippa, Leona, and Trillian Bergmann; along with many fans and good friends.

Contributions may be made to the Aaron and Dylan Davis Irrevocable Trust, c/o Camy Matthay, 5708 Bellbrook Road, Brooklyn, Wisconsin, 53521. Memorial service information forthcoming here and/or on Melissa Matthay's Facebook page

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times from Sep. 2 to Sep. 3, 2010.
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37 entries
September 3, 2011
I had the great pleasure to meet Lissy in my freshman year at Madison. I immediately forgot about college and fell head over heels in love with an amazing woman. She tolerated me for two years. She was a kind creative, loving ,fun, introspective and thoughtful woman.I was so happy to hear she had children and that she followed one of her passions and was succssful. We were music nuts together.On my birthday she bought me a bass guitar, I've never stopped playing, Thank you Lissy for the many blessings you shared with me,

You will be missed
Norman Tisdell
August 22, 2011
lissie and I were good friends at st bedesbedes I was g;ad to hear she had children she always wanted to be a mom she had a ronald mcdonald dollthat she knitted a sweater for&treated like a child
November 22, 2010
Mellisa turned me on to Jazz Dance. As a student at Potsdam she choreographed a Jazz piece to Rufus' Swing Down Chariot which I danced in. She never knew this but because of her inspiration I went on to be a Jazz Dancer for 19 years. Whenever I smell Rive Gauche I remember Melissa. I will always have that part of her in my heart mind and spirit. Davon Frasca
Davon Frascca
November 9, 2010
I truely REGRET never having the honor of meeting Melissa. I know her gorgeous talented son Dylan, he's my son's best friend.

Rest in Peace Melissa.
Jeanne LaBarre-Miller
October 27, 2010
OMG! I didn't know! I am floored. I just sent a wall post and scrolled down the Facebook page to see this. *tears* Miss you Melissa!

Nesa Wright
September 28, 2010
Melissa will always be remembered by Madison's knitting community. She really shook up the knitting world. My deepest sympathy to her sons and the rest of her family.
Kathy Lange-Novak
September 26, 2010
Aaron bent it when he waas baby :) Beautiful woman!!
September 26, 2010
September 26, 2010
Shes in love!
September 26, 2010
She won beer drinkingcontest bahamas (1989)
September 26, 2010
September 26, 2010
September 26, 2010
Knitting Diva
September 26, 2010
Melissa, You are forever imprinted on my soul! Melissa was bigger than life, I met Lissy when I was 18 Yrs old, and I was her first Nanny, she was my second Mom...Liss taught my so much about being a strong woman, from her infectious laughter, her never ending honesty, and her creative genius, she was an inspiration to everyone who new and loved her, the world is a sadder place without our Lissy, but heaven is definitely a more rockin place to be now...I will miss you so much dear friend!!!
Doreen Parnham
September 26, 2010
We met in dance classes @ Alvin Ailey Amerian Dance Center when it was on 59th St & 3rd ave. She shared her passion for the arts & knitting then she developed her dream not only knitting fine pieces of wearable art but knitting love and passion into the lives of everyone she came into contact with. Touching our lives.
Lissy Angel-sis, May you forever be in our hearts & thoughts. Thank you for your friendhsip.I miss u.I love u.
Dedi Marie
September 17, 2010
Melissa was always a bright star in my day if I was down, or felt a case of the dulldrums; she would inspire me beyond belief! She taught me to be unafraid of color and that just about anything goes! I'll sadly miss her and her spirit! I'll only hope that her spirit & work will live with me forever. Bye Sweet heart. Love Jennifer Ybarra
Jennifer Ybarra
September 16, 2010
Melissa and I had neighboring stores for several years and I will always remember the sound of her laughter , loud and clear from next door,and her fast and furious galloping (never walking) down the stairs. When my dog was hit by a car on the busy street in front of our stores, she immediately bundled us into her car and rushed us to the vet, despite the fact this was during business hours. I'll love you always, Melissa.
Gerri Ager, Madison, Wisconsin
September 13, 2010
We will all cherish the patterns and creative ideas that Melissa shared with us. She had a free spirit, a fantastic smile and a creative mind that went right to her fingertips. We are all better for knowing her. Melissa has left her footprint on this earth that we must all carry forward for her boys.
Barry Klein
Trendsetter Yarns
Barry Klein
September 12, 2010
Me, Kele and Aaron on a walking tour of Madison
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
Melissa will always be one of the dearest friends I have in the world. Always upbeat and caring about whatever I am doing in my life—and about her boys! She is to blame for so many wonderful memories and people that I now call friends. she made a simple marriage ceremony at City Hall in NYC rock!
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
Me, Kele and Aaron
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
A brief visit to Madison, WI from Appleton, while doing 'Lion King' (family in tact), we took these 3 pix #1
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
Rudy Roberson
September 12, 2010
I will never forget Melissa. Her NYC shop meant everything to me when she owned it. There has been no other like her since. She shared everything that she knew about knitting. I remember going to her shop two days before a vacation with nothing to take on my trip. She designed and knit a tank top overnight, wore it the next day and handed me the pattern and supplies for my vacation(and a hug). Who can forget the delightful baby sweaters that had been worn by her son that she hung in the shop?! She was a survivor. God Bless You Melissa.
Rhonda Sistrunk
September 11, 2010
I am so sorry for your loss. Her bright personality was always very welcoming when visiting her store in Madison, WI. I always left with good feelings and thoughts about knitting and life in general. She was always very friendly and helpful, always interested to know what projects you were working on. I had missed her when she sold her store. I'm really going to miss her now.
Michelle Livanos
September 10, 2010
it seems impossible this vivacious creature could be gone! deepest sympathies to those closest to her. no one who knits here in madison will ever forget her! brenna
brenna hopkins
September 7, 2010
I was saddened to hear of the passing of "Lissy". Never having met her personally, her scarf patterns always call to me and I will honor them even more now. I do much chairty work and love is knit into each item, even more so now. Godspeed, and gentle journey. I do hope there is knitting in Heaven!! Save me a place in the circle.
Dianne Lea
September 6, 2010
I met Lissy while we were in college at SUNY Potsdam. She was one of a kind, and her joyful laugh & smile were magical. In recent years, when she was visiting NYC, she would drop by the Empire Diner, where I played piano on Mondays, and chat with me, filling me in on her latest news.... and she would be knitting the whole time.....
Rich Campbell
September 6, 2010
Lissy, around 1980
Rich Campbell
September 4, 2010
Melissa was my "almost" daughter. She was best friends with my daughter Terri from the time they met, at 13, until Lissy's death. We all loved her, and always will. Like all of you, we remember her laugh, her smiles, and her amazing talents. O'lav a'sholem, Lissy.
Barbara Rumstein
September 3, 2010
Lissy was truly the 'knitting diva'. No one could ever fill her shoes, especially the crazy ones she always managed to find. One of the times I was in the Knitting Tree, we were bantering back and forth on who was the biggest 'diva'. Of course she was but she gave me her 'diva' visor to make me a 'diva' too. I still have the visor and have always and will always cherish it and our friendship.
Myra Heineck
September 3, 2010
I will remember Lissy every time I go through the shoe department at Macy's and see the wild and crazy styles that were meant to be worn as only Lissy could wear them.
shirley walker
September 3, 2010
I was so sorry to hear of her passing - every Rosh Hashanah I think of her just happening to pop into my office. HaMakom yenachem.
Aimee Powalisz
September 3, 2010
During an unusually torrential driving mid-western rain... we ( the five business owners who shared a block) all came out to watch the flooding while huddled under an awning. All of a sudden- Lissy sprinted to the middle of Monroe street and started an all out heart felt disco-dance-- she was hearing it ! THis is the scene I have burned into my memory , forever... She seized the moment. Bonjour Diva... J
julie petrson-conrad
September 3, 2010
We were most grateful and honored to have been able to include Melissa's beautiful contribution of her "Tallis" shawl pattern and touching story "Sophie's Tallis" for our first book, "The Prayer Shawl Companion." It was obvious that she was a woman of faith who deeply loved her family. Our sincerest condolences, Janet Bristow & Vicky Galo
September 2, 2010
I will remember Melissa Matthay every time I wear the wonderful original poncho I knitted from yarn suggested by Melissa when she still owned The Knitting Tree in Madison. She had such spirit and spunk, and she was tremendously gifted. May her light ever continue to shine.
Judith (Troia) Wettengel
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